By George Yoshinaga
It’s difficult to ignore the passing of time because we are reminded on a daily basis how the years disappear.
This was the thought which flashed through my mind when received an e-mail about Takayuki Kubota’s 45th anniversary of his U.S. karate tournament scheduled for Oct. 4. And this tournament will also recognize his 70th anniversary in the martial arts.
Mr. Kubota wears the tile of Soke. It’s the highest title for anyone involved in karate.
Most karate instructors are respectfully called Sensei. I don’t know of any other karate instructor who holds the tile Soke which is translated as Grand Master.
It’s difficult to realize I met Soke Kubota when I was living in Tokyo over 65 years ago and he was a karate instructor at his own gym.
I was able to meet him because the person I worked for, the late professional wrestler, Rikidozan, was one of Soke Kubota’s karate students.
I headed Riki’s boxing gym in those days and one day, he suggested I take two American pro boxers whom we brought to Japan to see if learning karate might help hone their boxing skills.
The two were better than average pro boxers named Mutt Goodwin and Charlie Shipes.
So the two started to spar around with Soke Kubota, but they couldn’t lay a finger on him because of his quick movements. They were both impressed and they told me that one day they might want to train in karate.
In those days, karate was not that widely known throughout the world. But Soke Kubota’s fame soon spread and caught the attention of the Tokyo Police Department.
At the age of 19, he was commissioned to teach and train police officers in the art of karate. He taught them how to defend themselves with their bare hands, because of the unknown circumstances police officers face every day.
He also participated in daily police activities such as going to Tokyo’s heavy crime infested areas with the police.
It was during this era that Soke Kubota’s “Gosoku ryu” karate technique was developed.
When the U.S. military heard about him, they invited him to teach self-defense and from 1958 to 1960, he taught the U.S. Military Police and other personnel at Camp Zama.
This led him to being invited to teach at various other U.S. Military bases in Japan.
He was also hired to serve as body guard for the U.S. Ambassador to Japan in 1964. That year, he was invited by Ed Parker, “The Father of American Kenpo Karate” to give a demonstration at Parker’s tournament in Long Beach.
After returning to Japan, Soke Kubota decided to relocate to the U.S. permanently.
He was hired by the Los Angeles Police Academy to teach self-defense and taught for several years before expanding and teaching at the FBI, NYPD and L.A. Sheriff’s Department.
His martial arts skill was never confined to the dojo. Aside from teaching martial arts, he was also a frequent technical adviser for fight scenes in the movies. He also appeared in 300 feature films and television programs.
Soke Kubota clearly established the standard of excellence in the field of martial arts.
So, needless to say, I am honored when he tells people that I’m an “old friend” of his.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to attend his 45th anniversary tournament and maybe we can chat about the “old days” in Tokyo.
One topic I want to talk to him about is his birthplace, which is Kumamoto prefecture. That’s where my Issei parents hailed from. So we might have something in common.
In the many years I have known him, I wasn’t aware that he was from Kumamoto.
Another tidbit on Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, etc.
A reader who identifies herself only as, Nora, writes: “Just wanted to touch on a subject that you brought up recently in your column. The subject of you typecasting the young athletes as Sansei. A note: I believe Mina Harigae’s (the up and coming golfer) parents are from Japan so that makes her a Nisei. P/S Please relate to Maggie that we enjoy her comments in your column. It adds a great deal of charm.”
Thank you, Nora. Maggie will read this as she retypes my column. Glad something adds “charm” to my ramblings.
(Maggie’s comment: Thank you, Nora, for those kind words. You made my day! Best wishes to you and your family. It is a privilege and pleasure to type Mr. Yoshinaga’s columns).
I often wonder out loud what the actual definition of the word, “blog” might be. It is used frequently in this era.
Well, reader Ray Mayeda gave this version: “A dictionary in Google.com states that ‘blog’ is a noun which is a contraction of ‘web log.’ Web log is a web site that contains personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks provided by the writer. Blogs can also be used as a verb to write entries in and add material to or maintain a web blog. I hope the above definition helps when you come across ‘blog.’”
Well, Ray, hailing from another generation before we knew there was such a term as “web log” and “Google.com,” I can’t say that I fully understand.
Sandy Gress, executive secretary of The Cal and Main Street Hotel and Casino was kind enough to send me a clipping from the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper which contained a story about a Japanese doll exhibit being held at the Henderson Convention Center until Oct. 10. The Center is located at 2005 Water St. in Henderson, which is a few miles from Vegas. Admission is free.
The Japan America Society and the City of Henderson is sponsoring the exhibit which will have 70 unique dolls, all made in Japan.
The goal of the exhibit is to promote an understanding of Japan’s culture through visual arts.
Kathleen Blakely, honorary Consul General of Japan for the State of Nevada said, “These are not toys, but an embodiment of Japanese life.”
Dolls are so much a part of growing up in Japan that a national holiday known as Girls Day, was started as an official festival in 1687.
Blakely said, “If you don’t understand the language, how are you going to understand the culture? We think visual arts are the best way to know.”
For girls growing up in Japan, dolls a lot more than playthings.
Dolls are given to female babies to celebrate their birth and to wish them a long life and happiness. They are also meant to protect the children from evil spirits. They are the embodiment of their life.
So all of you who may be planning a trip to Vegas between now and Oct. 10, might want to drop in to view the exhibit. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
One thing I was curious about when I read this article was why there wasn’t a little publicity about it in the Southern California area.
I’m sure a lot a lot of Japanese Americans would visit such an exhibit if it were held at say, the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
(Maggie’s comment: There is an exhibit on Kokeshi dolls at the JANM through Oct. 4. Phone: (213) 625-0414. Also see Rafu edition of July 9).
Well, there’s a little over 20 games remaining in the regular baseball season as I write this (Wednesday) and the Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro is bating .359.
Remember that bit we did about James Ito saying that if Ichiro bats .350 or higher, he would go running naked through J-Town?
It’s still touch and go. If Ichiro gets at least 12 hits in the remaining games, we’ll see Naked running through J-Town. Which leads me to another story which can be related to the Naked tale.
A man was standing on the corner of a busy downtown Los Angeles street yelling, “Help, Help.”
So someone called the police, who arrived on the scene.
When they asked the man what the problem was, he said, “Problem, what problem?”
“You were yelling or help,” the officer told him.
The guy chuckled and replied, “Oh that. The name of my dog is Help and I don’t know where he went.”
Well, maybe when the baseball season ends, Naked can get Help to run through Little Tokyo.
Are you ready, Mr. Ito?
A penny for your thoughts?
I know many of my Nisei friends, most of them ladies, say they have switched to the penny machine indicating they are not big-time gamblers.
Well, would you believe that this year penny slots brought in $17.8 billion?
In fact, penny slots are the fastest growing machines in Nevada casinos. They are no longer an oddity. The games have become a norm for the casino industry and a large chuck of the casino revenue.
At the end of June, there were 37,943 penny slot machines in Nevada casinos, and 15 percent of all money gambled were on penny slots.
And more are going to be added.
One thing, as I mentioned, penny slots don’t take pennies. Cash or tickets have to be inserted into the machines.
Average wager on penny slots begin at 60 cents up to $2 a spin. That’s more than the quarter slots.
As I mention frequently, my favorite slot is the video keno machine. And, I play one quarter at a time.
My wife plays the penny machine and the minimum bet she makes is 60 cents but more often $2.
Simple math tells you who’s spending more money.
Oh well, as I said in opening this segment, “A penny for your thoughts.”
On the heels of the story by Tom Mayeda, who escaped evacuation by fleeing before the deadline, comes a letter from Dick Uyehara of Grand Junction, Colo., who is also looking for more information on “volunteer evacuees.” Here’s his note:
“I’m one of approximately 6,000 Japanese Americans and Issei who left the West Coast voluntarily before the deadline was set on midnight of the 28th of March, 1942. Our family left Southern California on the morning of the 28th and were in Nevada by midnight.
“For years, I’ve followed and read many accounts of the folks who were incarcerated in the various internment camps but I’ve not been able to locate anything about those 6,000 who survived outside the camps during the same period of the internees.
“Do you have any knowledge of where such information about the voluntary evacuees might be gotten? I’m curious as to how many of them fared. Our existence on the outside was very difficult in both Blackfoot and Pocatello, Idaho, where we first went for all of 1942 and most of 1943 at which time, we moved to Brighton, Colo.
“I’d appreciate any information you might be able to glean out of history archives and/or experiences expressed by those whose exodus from California also were voluntary. Perhaps your readers might help me as well.”
A little addition background on Dick. He’s a Korean War vet and was an Air Force pilot.
He and his wife said they found volumes and volumes of references to the internment camp but have not found a smidgeon of anything of those who toiled outside of internment.
I hope that we do start getting more information from persons such as Tom Mayeda and make voluntary evacuation a part of Japanese American history.
When I write this next sentence, most of you may say, “Oh my gosh, not again.” Yep.
Another set of relatives of Maui are visiting Vegas next week so you know what that means.
This will be my third trip in three weeks. I moaned and groaned when I made two trips in two weeks recently.
Well, you can bet this is about it for 2009.
Since my wife and I don’t go to Maui anymore, I guess driving 4-1/2 hours to Vegas is not such a bad alternative.
One thing you can bet on: I won’t lose any money on this trip. No, I won’t hit any jackpots. I won’t have any money to lose. I’ll have enough money to dine at McDonald’s or maybe Denny’s.
Of course, maybe our relatives may take us to dinner and pick up the tab.
No, that’s not my joke of the day.
If any of you want to laugh, try these one-liners, which were heads in a few newspapers:
“One armed man applauds kindness of strangers.” How’d he do that, having only one arm.
“Acton attorney accidentally sues himself.” Ah, lawyers.
And finally: “Tiger Woods plays with own balls.” No comment.
If Alisa Lynch, who heads the Manzanar project, is tuned in to my channel, I want to publicly apologize for not getting together with her so that she might interview me on my “take” on the evacuation and camp life.
I was suppose to meet her at the Heart Mountain Reunion last week but when one is running around Vegas, there’s really no way to make every appointment.
Well, maybe one of these days if Alisa still wants to hear my story.
Speaking of relocation camp, Tak Isobe corrects me about the size of the barracks we lived in at Heart Mountain. I wrote that each barrack had four units, A, B, C and D.
He corrects me. He says each barrack had six units. A and F were the smallest with C and D in the middle and B and E, the largest.
Now that I think back, he is right.
There were six units in each barrack.
Maybe I should have spend more time in our unit instead of running around camp looking to get into mischief.
Well, I don’t think that I’m the only one whose memory has dimmed since those days over 60 years ago.
At the recent Heart Mountain Reunion, some of the internees got up to talk about their experiences.
One fellow said he and his friends sneaked outside the barbed wire fence and was staring down the barrel of an M-1 rifle held by one of the Military Police officers assigned to watch the camp.
My recollection of the MPs on guard was that they carried carbines, not M1s.
I figured out the difference when I joined the Army and we were assigned M1s during our basic training.
Maybe some others may want to dispute my claim.
Okay, I’m near the end of today’s chatter which means it’s laugher time.
Here’s some jokes which can be told in church:
Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, “Why is it the bride is dressed in white?”
The mother replied, “Because white is a color of happiness and today is the happiest day of her life.”
The child thought about this for a moment and then asked, “So why is the groom wearing black?”
Try this one: A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her 5 and 6 year olds. After explaining the Commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” she asked, “Is there a Commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”
Without missing a beat, one little boy answered, “Thou shall not kill.”
Then there’s an old sea story in the Navy about a ship’s captain who inspected his sailors and afterwards told the Chief Boson’s mate that his men smelled bad. The captain suggested perhaps it would help if the sailors would change underwear occasionally. The chief responded, “Aye, aye, Sir, I’ll see to it immediately.
The Chief went straight to the sailors’ berth deck and announced, “The Captain thinks you guys smell bad and wants you to change your underwear. Pittman, you change with Jones; McCarthy, you change with Witkowski and Brown, you change with Schult. Now get to it.”
The moral: Someone may be promising “change” in Washington but don’t count on things smelling any better.
I guess the Republicans in the audience will get more of a kick out of this one.
Until next time.
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] com. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo